I was settled in for the night, fire blazing in the hearth, relaxing comfortably into the armchair with a glass of port, mince pies and Dickens. I must have dozed off for I awoke with a start as the grandfather clock in the hallway chimed the midnight hour. The fire had burned down and a stillness lay on the house. I felt acute indigestion in my chest regretting those mince pies so late at night. Was that a knock at the door? Surely not at this hour. I waited. There it was again, a hesitant knock. I opened the door to see death staring me in the face.
Death beckoned. ” The ferry man awaits.”
I stared in confusion. ” You must be mistaken. Are you sure you have the right address”
Death nodded the affirmative.
” Your knock seemed a little hesitant, as if you were unsure. Are you absolutely certain it is tonight. Perhaps you are a few years early.”
Death kept staring me in the face. ” Perhaps I am a few minutes early, but I’m patient I can wait.”
“But I don’t want to die”, I gasped ” Can we not reach an accommodation.”
” You wish to negotiate” Death asked ” You may not like the price”
“Anything you ask ” I pleaded.
“One for one” Death intoned ” One year for one life”
“I don’t understand your meaning.” I was getting confused.
” You will take one life in order to live one year” Death explained ” Each year you take a life you will be spared death. That will be the contract between us.”
I shuddered in horror at this dreadful pact. I was not a violent man……but…… I did like my creature comforts.
” Agreed. ” I said and with those words Death disappeared.
I flopped into the armchair considering this pact I had made with Death. How would I go about this? Who would I choose? To assuage my conscience I persuaded myself that I needed some rules, not to kill violently but with compassion and to enact some form of kindness to the victim before death.
The first victim I chose was Mr. Moriarty my feeble next door neighbor and I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him.